By JB Clark and Brad Locke
TUPELO – Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton is headed to the Columbus Police Department, and Mayor Jason Shelton believes experience and community ties make Bart Aguirre the right person to succeed him.
Aguirre, a Tupelo Police Department captain, has served in the TPD for 28 of his 30 years in law enforcement. Shelton recommended him to the Tupelo City Council on Tuesday, and a confirmation vote is likely next week.
Carleton, who had announced via email Monday night that he was leaving the chief’s post Oct. 31, on Wednesday confirmed he will become one of two assistant police chiefs in Columbus on Nov. 1.
Shelton said the next police chief “needs to be someone that has the education, experience – life experience and law enforcement experience – and experience dealing with all different types of people in the community. Captain Aguirre can fill that role, and his family is multi-generational here. He has a keen awareness of the community and the Tupelo Spirit. I think he’s a real good fit.”
In addition to 30 years in law enforcement, 15 as the captain of Tupelo’s Criminal Investigation Division, Aguirre earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Mississippi in public administration and a master’s degree from the University of Alabama in criminal justice.
He was also a part of the FBI task force that brought down a tobacco smuggling ring and netted Tupelo property and money in the criminal settlement.
While thanking Shelton for nominating him, Aguirre said he will await the council’s decision before making any further public comment.
Former Tupelo Deputy Chief Robert Hall worked with Aguirre while they were both at the Tupelo Police Department.
“What I can say is that I did work with Bart for almost 20 years, and I’ve never known him to treat anyone unfairly, and I would wish him the best if he is put in the new leadership role,” Hall said.
In Columbus, Carleton will manage the criminal investigations and narcotics divisions.
Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen said he has worked with Carleton since becoming chief almost two years ago.
“I’ve known Tony for a while, and I know him to be an honorable, very intelligent and good all-around man,” McQueen said.
Carleton, who has been chief since 2009, said he is sad to leave Tupelo but, “God led us in a different direction, and we’re just excited about Columbus and getting down there and knowing officers and getting involved.”
Carleton said of the transition to Aguirre’s leadership, “I look forward to passing the torch on to him and helping him any way I can.”